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Algeria quake claims 1,000 lives

Rescue workers in action on Thursday at a building that collapsed in the devastating earthquake that hit Algiers overnight.

Rescue workers in action on Thursday at a building that collapsed in the devastating earthquake that hit Algiers overnight.  

ALGIERS (Algeria) MAY 22. Rescue workers struggled to save survivors from the rubble and international aid workers rushed to Algeria today after a powerful earthquake killed more than 1,000 people and injured 5,000 overnight

The 6.7-magnitude quake brought apartment houses down and toppled trees in the area east of Algiers. Weeping survivors walked amid debris and hospitals were choked with the injured. Many warned the toll would increase.

``Unfortunately we have not finished establishing these increasingly tragic figures,'' the Algerian Prime Minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, told reporters in the quake zone. ``What is worrying is that there are still many under the rubble.''

The Interior Ministry put the toll at 707 dead and more than 5,000 injured, the official APS news agency reported. The Wednesday night quake was the most devastating to hit Algeria since a pair of temblors west of the capital killed 2,500 in October 1980.

French TV footage showed helmeted rescue workers digging furiously through the wreckage of apartment houses and homes in a desperate search for survivors. One man said he saw panicked people jumping from a hotel window.

The quake was deadliest in towns in the vicinity of Thenia, near the quake epicentre. Thenia is about 60 km east of Algiers, the capital of this North African nation.

The quake hit about 7.45 p.m., cutting electricity in some neighbourhoods of Algiers and causing panic throughout the city. About 10 aftershocks rippled through the area in the hours that followed, though the city was calm by today afternoon.

``It was a great shock,'' said Mohcine Douali, who lives in the centre of Algiers. ``I ran out to the street with my wife and my two daughters, and no one has been able to sleep because of the aftershocks.''

Numerous towns throughout the Boumerdes district east of Algiers were devastated, and residents of the region were swarming to hospitals, with injuries or to seek news of loved ones. Dozens of bodies were laid out, their families weeping over them.

In Algiers, several building collapsed, reducing homes to piles of rubble mixed with kitchen utilities, clothing or a bicycle.

People thronged the streets, preferring to be outdoors for fear of another temblor. — AP


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